[ Read Online O Lost Ó boarding-school PDF ] by Thomas Wolfe å Look Homeward, Angel A Story Of The Buried Life Is A Novel By Thomas Wolfe It Is Wolfe S First Novel, And Is Considered A Highly Autobiographical American Bildungsroman The Character Of Eugene Gant Is Generally Believed To Be A Depiction Of Wolfe Himself The Novel Covers The Span Of Time From Gant S Birth To The Age Of The Setting Is The Fictional Town And State Of Altamont, Catawba, A Fictionalization Of His Home Town, Asheville, North Carolina Playwright Ketti Frings Wrote A Theatrical Adaptation Of Wolfe S Work In A Play Of The Same Title sometimes books have to be read at a certain time in your life for me this one was the perfect end to college i finished this two days after graduation after all of my friends departed for points unknown or home i was laying in the grass at fordham in the bronx with the sun shining and with the words my mother spoke to me when she dropped me off four years earlier she said, you won t be back and i told her i would but reading this finishing it in the grass in the bronx with everyone who had been close to me gone, i knew she was right.
Rating 2.
5 of fiveThe Publisher Says A legendary author on par with William Faulkner and Flannery O Connor, Thomas Wolfe published Look Homeward, Angel, his first novel, about a young man s burning desire to leave his small town and tumultuous family in search of a better life, in 1929 It gave the world proof of his genius and launched a powerful legacy.
The novel follows the trajectory of Eugene Gant, a brilliant and restless young man whose wanderlust and passion shape his adolescent years in rural North Carolina Wolfe said that Look Homeward, Angel is a book made out of my life, and his largely autobiographical story about the quest for a greater intellectual life has resonated with and influenced generations of readers, including some of today s most important novelists Rich with lyrical prose and vivid characterizations, this twentieth century American classic will capture the hearts and imaginations of every reader.
My Review Oliver Gant s a drunk, Eliza Gant s a shrew, they have six kids and she doesn t like him, or childbirth, or poverty, or much of anything else that I can see Oliver likes his youngest, Eugene, better than any of them so do I, but that s not sayin a lot , and spends what tiny amount of love Eliza hasn t nagged and bitched and niggled and criticized and belittled out of him on the kid.
Eugene grows up in a boardinghouse called Dixieland in Asheville, North Carolina OOOPSIE I mean Altamont, Catawba Wolfe didn t want anyone to know he was writing autobiography, see, so he invented a city and a state Wow And then he wrote about the people around him honestly, forthrightly, and in a stream of Faulkner style that was then tr s chic and is even now described as modernistic EIGHTY PLUS YEARS LATER IT S NOT EXPERIMENTAL OR MODERN ANYMORE, BOYS AND GIRLS, IT S PART OF THE TOOLKIT.
Ahem Sorry.
So Eugene grows up, and we do too, and then leaves home, and we do too, and then everything comes to a screeching halt Thank GAWD for small mercies.
I am no fan of the coming of age novel, and I don t often read them I read this one when I was fifteen, because I wanted to impress a hot boy I was trying to get into my bed, and he thought this was the coolest book ever I read it every damn day in study hall so he d notice me, which he did, and we ended up talking about the book for hours.
And that was ALL I got Yip yap yop about Eugene s life and his deepness and ohdeargawdpleasekillmenow stuff about the damn BOOK I don t think I ve ever forgiven the book for not getting me laid.
But upon mature reflection, I still dislike the book, for better adult, anyway reasons One is that even editing legend Max Perkins couldn t give Wolfe a deft enough hand to tell this story in so demanding a style as stream of consciousness without it spilling over into self indulgence and sloppy, untidy, unnecessary sentimentality.
Another is Eugene Tom s misogyny I yield to no one in my distaste for the Cult of Female Superiority, whether motivated by chivalry or by feminism Women ain t better than men, but likewise they ain t worse either Wolfe s woman, mama Eliza, is a horrible gorgon of a vicious emasculating harridan She has depths to her nastiness and pretension that are entirely credible What she lacks is the balancing of REASONS for these things In the first two zillion words, which detail the lives of Eliza and Oliver, Eliza emerges fully formed as a castrating slime She was born this way I doubt me much this is true.
Lastly comes Wolfe s conceit In this Bildungs barely roman, he relives the first years of his lifean ordinary, unremarkable oneseemingly in real time Why What for Here is the nub of my objection to coming of age stories We ve all come of age, so what makes your story special In Wolfe s case, I do not see the special It is entirely possible that I am resistant to his specialness because the story is so boring to me But I quite simply can not fathom what makes this dreary, low class, hag ridden tribe of ciphers anything I should care enough about to do than put a coin in the charity box to help feed.
This book is my nemesis.
No, seriously I ve been trying to read it for almost six years I ve tried to read it in the spring, the summer, the fall, the winter on planes, on the bus, on the El, in Chicago, in Balti, in North Carolina And every single time, I stall out about 60% of the way through.
Stargate Atlantis fans think that John Sheppard s still trying to read War and Peace after three years in the Pegasus Galaxy I canonically can t finish Look Homeward, Angel.
I know it shouldn t bother me I m not really a big believer in there being books you should read, like classics you should read what you want but it does It bothers me because I m a student albeit an amateur of Southern literature, and this is one of the big ones, right up there with all of Faulkner and The Moviegoer and Kate Vaiden In North Carolina, it s the big one.
And I just can t finish it.
I don t know if it s good, or bad, or simply hanging on by its academic reputation All I know is that this book is the great challenge of my life, and I just bought a used copy at the public library, and I am going to finish this frelling book if it kills me.
Look homeward Angel now, and melt with ruth And, O ye Dolphins, waft the hapless youth.
John Milton, LycidasOne of the greatest novels that he had long ago read.
1937 portrait by Carl Van VechtenThomas C Wolfe 1900 1938 published this, his first novel, in 1929 He had begun working on it three years before, and intended on calling it The Building of a Wall, then O Lost The final title includes the subtitle A Story of the Buried Life.
It s the story of Eugene Gant, his growing up, his family especially his mother and his brother and the fictional mountain town of Altamont, in the fictional state of Catawba The boy, the town, the state are thinly disguised versions of the author, his real family, and the town of his youth, Ashville, North Carolina.
As noted above, Wolfe died quite young While traveling in the American West for the first time, in the summer of 1938, he contracted pneumonia in Seattle Complications set in, and Wolfe was diagnosed with tuberculosis He was admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in early September nine days later he was dead.
The New York Times wrote, His was one of the most confident young voices in contemporary American literature, a vibrant, full toned voice which it is hard to believe could be so suddenly stilled The stamp of genius was upon him, though it was an undisciplined and unpredictable genius There was within him an unspent energy, an untiring force, an unappeasable hunger for life and for expression which might have carried him to the heights and might equally have torn him down Most of Wolfe s writings were fictional autobiography, with a style undisciplined, romantic, lyrical a penchant for analysis in depth of the individual s ie, his confrontation with Life and The World Alfred Kazin has noted that Wolfe was always a boy his significance as a writer is that he expanded his boyhood into a lifetime, made it exciting and important, even illuminated many of the problems that give life its common savor, without ever transcending the pain of his boyhood.
In Robert Morgan s Introduction to my Scribner edition, he remembers first reading Wolfe When I took Look Homeward, Angelfrom the bookmobile and began reading it I felt this was the book I d always been looking for It was a novel about me, and it was than a novel It was a revelation about how ambitious and thrilled and scared I was, and about how lost I felt Eugene Gant s parents were my own parents, and his anxieties and frustrations and sense of destiny were my own I discovered a version of myself in the book and became intoxicated with the elevated, poetic prose I felt I had discovered a new poetry in the choral sections, in the soliloquies Which of us has known his brother Which of us has looked into his father s heart Which of us has not remained forever prison pent Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone Remembering speechlessly we seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane end into heaven, a stone, a leaf, an unfound door I was sure this was what was meant by epic writing, and by tragic poetry What he refers to is the opening of Wolfe s novel A destiny that leads the English to the Dutch is strange enough but one that leads from Epsom into Pennsylvania, and thence into the hills that shut in Altamont over the proud coral cry of the cock, and the soft stone smile of an angel, is touched by that dark miracle of chance which makes new magic in a dusty world.
Each of us is all the sums he has not counted subtract us into nakedness and night again, and you shall see begin in Crete four thousand years ago the love that ended yesterday in Texas.
The seed of our destruction will blossom in the desert, the alexin of our cure grows by a mountain rock, and our lives are haunted by a Georgia slattern, because a London cutpurse went unhung Each moment is the fruit of forty thousand years The minute winning days, like flies, buzz home to death, and every minute is a window on all time.
Of course it s not all like that but enough enough to excite the passions of a young mind And thus a mind like young Eugene Gant, a boy growing in that mountain ringed in town of Altamont, yearning for life and the world beyond that which he s been given to know.
And how how did this overwrought prose poetry capture me in my early twenties I, after all, have turned out not to be like Gene Gant Thomas Wolfe became a writer, a young man ceaselessly on the move to an ever wider view of life and the world Perhaps I had that wider view of things with three years in a far off land over forty years ago but just a few years after Look Homeward and then found that one can go home again, can return Odysseus like to where he started, satiated with even a modicum of the world, small by Homeric standards, but enough for me to last Would Wolfe s novel still pull at me I long to find out Previous review Science Fiction Hall of Fame Vol Two BNext review The Fixer MalamudMore recent review Basil Street BluesPrevious library review StonerNext library review Native Son Look Homeward, Angel, A Story of Buried Life Or, Why I Can t Go Home Again Look Homeward, Angel, First Edition, Charles Scribner s Sons, NY, NY, 1929The manuscript Thomas Wolfe submitted to master editor Maxwell Perkins was not titled Look Homeward, Angel, A Story of Buried Life Rather, Wolfe had chosen O Lost A Story of the Buried Life Thomas Wolfe, a buried life I call Perkins the master editor for he was already responsible for neatening up the works of Ernest Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald He was accustomed to diplomatically dealing with authors sensitivities reluctance to have the language of their creations changed Hemingway could be an absolute beast about it Now Perkins had what appeared to be a new prodigy on his hands He found Wolfe malleable THE editor, Max PerkinsPerkins explained to Wolfe that he considered Wolfe s alter ego, Eugene Gant, to be the central focus of the novel To emphasize that Perkins said portions unnecessary to accomplishing that parts had to be cut And Perkins cut Sixty six thousand words Initially, Wolfe considered Perkins a friend and mentor As he published additional work he soured in his opinion of Perkins In 1934 Wolfe left Scribners and signed with Harper Brothers.
The original manuscript of O Lost A Story of the Buried Life, was published on October 3, 2000, by the University of South Carolina Press for the centenary of Thomas Wolfe s birth The manuscript was restored by F Scott Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J Bruccoli, and Arlyn Bruccoli But, back to the novel in question Look Homeward, Angel was published less than two weeks before the stock market crash of 1929 However, what was the beginning of the great depression did not deter readers from buying Wolfe s first novel The reviews were generally glowing The debut of the novel was a literary sensation.
In short, Wolfe wrote his autobiography as fiction As in real life, Eugene s father was a stone cutter of funereal monuments, while his mother established a second home in a boarding house she purchased Some of Eugene s siblings lived with their father, those who had not escaped by death or marriage However, Mother took Eugene to live with her at her enterprise, Dixie Land However, from time to time, Eugene s mother forgets that she has stashed him at his father s W.
O Gant, the stone cutter who can t carve an angel is the epitome of excess and at times largess Mother Eliza, however is the very symbol of deprivation She could make Lincoln scream on a penny Eugene never knows which room is his Eliza is prone to moving to smaller quarters to make room for her boarders.
Eliza keeps Eugene s hair at little Lord Fauntleroy length until age nine He is teased and bullied by his school mates Mother and son share the same bed until Eugene approaches adolescence Through the years Eugene s resentment toward his mother grows until he confronts her after leaving for college By God, I shall spend the rest of my life getting my heart back, healing and forgetting every scar you put upon me when I was a child The first move I ever made, after the cradle, was to crawl for the door, and every move I have made since has been an effort to escape Eliza responds by calling Eugene an unnatural son We follow Eugene throughout his life The novel ends near Wolfe s twenty ninth birthday.
Eugene s sibling to whom he is the closest is his brother Ben Ben acts as Eugene s reinforcement in escaping home He urges Eugene to take whatever he can from his parents to complete his college education However, Eugene repeatedly tells Ben he has enough.
Wolfe takes us through life on the home front during WWI He vividly portrays the deadly Spanish Influenza epidemic which swept through soldiers and citizens alike.
There are moments in this novel that are unforgettable Wolfe can write a sentence that paints the portrait of a place and time His characters are drawn memorably I first read Look Homeward, Angel in October, 1973 I was almost two months past my twenty first birthday Professor O.
B Emerson, the late Professor of English at the University of Alabama, taught a hefty canon of titles to be read over the semester Emerson believed a week should be a sufficient period of time to read Look Homeward, Angel I loved the man However, he was one of those professors who could be a bit tyrannical regarding his sympathies for his students other classes What classes, he murmured in his lilting southern drawl.
Sighing, as I opened the thick Scribners paperback, wondering how I was going to manage other class assignments, I experienced a euphoric high as I became entranced by Wolfe s story I became immersed in it I swam in it I believed I had stumbled upon a previously undiscovered god.
I assure you I came to consider Eugene Gant a kindred spirit I knew exactly what was meant by a buried life I suppose those in the agonies of adolescence and those on the threshold of manhood, womanhood, have at one time or another felt that portions of their lives were indeed buried by any numbers of things Families could be difficult They were barriers to freedom School mates could be horribly cruel for any number of reasons, the primary one being they looked down upon you from a lofty pedestal formed by their much higher social and financial position.
O Lost The object of one s romantic obsession The girl too virtuous to be touched The girls who kicked over the fences of virtuosity, who yearned to be touched and allowed me to touch them It was confusing whether love and lust were elements of one human need, or were completely different entities.
Eugene is extremely tall by the time he is sixteen Women tend to think he is older than he is One is Laura James who is twenty three Eugene falls hopelessly in love with her They spend considerable time in the evenings on the porch swing at Dixie Land He dreams of marriage to her She promises to wait for him And then Eugene learns that she has married Now that she has become unavailable to him, his thoughts become fantasies of vivid sexual attraction Come up into the hills, O my young love Return O Lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again, as first I knew you in the timeless valley, where we shall feel ourselves anew, bedded on magic in the month of June There was a place where all the sun went glistening in your hair, and from the hill we could have put a finger on a star Where is the day that melted into one rich noise Where the music of your flesh, the rhyme of your teeth, the dainty languor of your legs, your small firm arms, your slender fingers, to be bitten like an apple, and the little cherry teats of your white breasts And where are all the tiny wires of finespun maidenhair Quick are the mouths of earth, and quick the teeth that fed upon this loveliness You who were made for music, will hear music no in your dark house the winds are silent Ghost, ghost, come back from that marriage that we did not foresee, return not into life, but into magic, where we have never died, into the enchanted wood, where we still life, strewn on the grass Come up into the hills, O my young love return O Lost, and by the wind grieved ghost, come back again I sympathized with Eugene, the prisoner of two parents controlled by completely conflicting belief systems Yet, Eugene had the knack of making himself miserable through his own worries separate and apart from any family influence When you are young everything is of momentous importance.
When my group On the Southern Literary Trail chose Look Homeward, Angel, I was eager to capture the reaction to it I had at age twenty one I went to the library bookstore and found a very nice Modern Library Giant edition of the novel 2.
00 A deal Done.
I opened the cover Inside was a library label of my college calculus professor Yes O Lost But she was not a forgotten face As much as I might have asked her ghost would not come again It was a moment that caused me to pause and think that perhaps, just perhaps, this read would not be the same as the first.
Although I have done many re reads of novels selected by my group, I have never been disappointed It has been like having a conversation with an old friend.
But this time it was different Nearly forty one years of living took the gloss off Wolfe s novel for me I decided Look Homeward, Angel is best left to the younger reader I shelved Look Homeward, Angel in 2010 Based on my memory of my first read I rated it four stars As you can see, through the passage of time my feelings have changed.
I have a sign that says Res ipsa loquitur, The thing speaks for itself.
Throughout my career I kept that sign on my office desk with its message facing me As I served the wounded, maimed, molested, and aggrieved ones whO Lost a loved one it reminded me of the good fortune I have had in life to not have suffered as the many with whom I worked Although it has become a cliche I find this to be true Surrender to the fact that life is unfair Don t sweat the small stuff.
Thomas Wolfe died a few days shy of his thirty eighth birthday He suffered from miliary tuberculosis which attacks the brain Perhaps in those final days he began to realize life wasn t quite as he had imagined it in his writing On his death bed he wrote to Max Perkins calling him his closest friend, acknowledging that Perkins had provided him so much help when he was a younger writer.
Me I m glad to be here You really can learn something from another day of living That s why I can t go home againO Lost, and by the wind grieved ghost, come back again I saw and loved the movie Genius about Max Perkins and Thomas Wolfe and realized I d skipped this one as a kid I definitely shouldn t have.
Why on earth was I so driven to read this book I, who eschew excess words and have no problem wiping them out of my own books and the work I edit I first read Look Homeward, Angel when I was in junior high school I retained none of the story, only my reaction to it awe For than forty years, the yellowing hardcover that my father purchased at Macy s per the stamp on the back end paper has been on my top shelf near the ceiling a shelf of books that I rescued from death by mildew in my mother s garage in the 1970s A week ago, on impulse, I pulled it down and started reading Why did I keep reading until page 318 I think because, fifty some years after first having read it, I can articulate that Wolfe writes what I feel His poetry although a laborious read and sometimes almost adolescent in its verbosity conveys the essence of what it is to be born a stranger in a strange land, to feel stuck between spirit and life in a body, to have memories that defy sentence making, and rather than drown in all his words, at least for the first half of the book, I mostly inhaled them, trusting my brain transcending comprehension And there are a lot of words endless poetic streams that suddenly and unexpectedly are peppered with raucous, sly humor the inanity of a conversation between a drunk and his wife and parodies of newspaper society pages and cheesy romantic novels He crushed her to him in a fierce embrace her slender body yielded to his touch as he bent over her and her round arms stole softly across his broad shoulders, around his neck, drawing his dark head to her as he planted hungry kisses on her closed eyes, the column of her throat, the parted petals of her fresh young lips 105 What fun Wolfe must have had writing this.
In 626 tightly printed, densely packed pages dripping and leaking and flooding and inundating your puny intake orifices with inky words I m demonstrating here, in case you re taking me seriously And FYI, Part 2 of the three parts gets so heavy with modifiers that it becomes almost funny Can you follow this parenthetical bit Sorry, but it s nothing compared to the book itself , Wolfe tells the story of his alter ego, Eugene Gant, born in 1900 He felt, rather than understood, the waste, the confusion, the blind cruelty of their lives his spirit was stretched out on the rack of despair and bafflement as there came to him and the conviction that their lives could not be hopelessly distorted, wrenched, mutilated, and perverted away from all simple comfort, repose, happiness, if they set themselves deliberately to tangle the skein, twist the pattern 136 137 Alas, a little less than 200 pages later, I found myself skimming and then drowning, and decided that reading this once in a lifetime, even if I can t remember it, will suffice.
Still there are things I admire here Despite his excessiveness, Wolfe expresses the nuances of life and, with a sage s X ray vision, the many layers of Eugene Gant and all the people who surround him I read the 1929 edition which was trimmed by 60,000 words at the bidding and hands of the immaculate editor Maxwell Perkins see a wonderful movie about Perkins and Wolfe called Genius and is still torturously overwritten In 2000, the original cuts were restored in a new edition read at your own peril Because it is 2016, I feel compelled to note the business as usual racism in the book for younger readers This book would never be published now not only because of the overwriting but because the culture would not accept this expression of a white Christian s take on Blacks and Jews But if you can accept this kind of stuff as representative of the time when it was written, read it.
While visiting Asheville, NC, in May, we boarded a trolley at the Visitor s Center for a guided tour of the city Uncle Ted was our driver, a retired high school history teacher with a great sense of humor but an occasionally hard to decipher accent He took umbrage if we didn t always laugh at his jokes but often we were just a little slow to parse out his meaning But what soon became very apparent was how much the city of Asheville loves its authors and none so than Thomas Wolfe 1900 1938 His first book, Look Homeward, Angel, is largely based on his own childhood in Asheville He changed the names of places and people to protect the guilty but his neighbors still recognized local characters Some were thrilled to see themselves in print, others not so much But according to Uncle Ted even to this day fans of the book go on self guided walking tours, trying to locate scenes from the novel, stopping to ask for autographs from the residents who now live there, even though they have nothing to do with the Wolfe family or the story Returning to the Visitor s Center, I bought myself a copy of the book my favorite kind of souvenir to bring back from our travels I believe this book has been on my must read list since it was recommended in high school but back then, I tended to read female authors with female protagonists, I realize now My favorites were To Kill a Mockingbird, Gone with the Wind, Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Pride and Prejudice, to name just a few What would I have thought of this book as a teen, I now ask myself Would I have been able to relate to Eugene Gant and his struggles to find himself Yes probably, as I did with Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, which was the first book I assigned to a sopho English class as a student teacher This novel was published in 1929 and must have raised a few eyebrows for its subject matter and experimental style Is it the great American novel I would say it definitely should be in the running What a wonderful window it provides to that era and that mountain setting The characterizations are vivid, the writing poetical, the coming of age angst depicted is universal and timeless The Gant family is beyond dysfunctional they attack each other, both verbally and physically, but when the chips are down they obviously deeply love each other The brothers and sisters are divided by which parent they seem to take after W.
O Gant is extremely self centered and often inebriated Oh, woe is me Why is this happening to me Eliza Pentland Gant is a penny pincher whose main goal is to acquire property at the expense of a comfortable life for her family At one point, she buys a boarding house she calls Dixieland and thereafter her family divides itself in half some remain with Gant while some stay with her, including her youngest son, Eugene Thomas Wolfe Many of the boarders are unsavory druggies and prostitutes but Eliza doesn t care as long as they can pay the rent Eugene never even has a room or a dresser to call his own everything is up for grabs Some interesting photos of the house which is now a NC state historic site Even though his parents always claim to be so poor, they are able to send the precocious Eugene off to the University of North Carolina at the young age of 16, where he is seen as a country bumpkin and a misfit he s so very tall, skinny, and poorly dressed and becomes the brunt of their jokes Spotting his virginal innocence, some friends make it a point to see he is initiated into sex with a prostitute, where he contracts a raging case of venereal disease In his shame, he thinks he s dying until he confesses his sin to his older brother, Ben, who laughs at his folly and takes him to the local doctor for some medical treatment.
There are many themes that run through the novel, the main one being the feeling of alienation, of being a stranger in a strange land, the sense of being lost in the world It s also interesting to keep track of the many references to angels and descriptions of gauntness which appear throughout the story The original family name was Gaunt, changed to Gant when the forefather first arrived in America in the early 1800s, by the way Wolfe s angel of my favorite quotes Ben Gant He bore encysted in him the evidence of their tragic fault he walked alone in the darkness, death and the dark angels hovered, and no one saw him Eugene Gant, at nearly twelve The prison walls of self had closed entirely round him he was walled completely by the esemplastic power of his imagination he had learned by now to project mechanically, before the world, an acceptable counterfeit of himself which would protect him from intrusion Naked came I from my mother s womb Naked shall I return Let the mothering womb of earth engulf me Naked, a valiant wisp of man, in vast brown limbs engulfed The Gant family And he thought of the strange lost faces he had known, the lonely figures of his family, damned in chaos, each chained to a destiny of ruin and loss Gant, a fallen Titan, staring down enormous vistas of the Past, indifferent to the world about him Eliza, beetle wise, involved in blind accretions Helen, childless, pathless, furious a great wave breaking on barren waste and finally, Ben the ghost, the stranger, prowling at this moment in another town, going up and down the thousand streets of life, and finding no doors As Eugene s brother lies dying He began to pray He did not believe in God, nor in heaven or hell, but he was afraid they might be true He did not believe in angels with soft faces and bright wings, but he believed in the dark spirits that hovered above the heads of lonely men He did not believe in devils or angels, but he believed in Ben s bright demon to whom he had seen him speak so many times Eugene did not believe in these things, but he was afraid they might be true He was afraid Ben would get lost again He felt that no one but him could pray for Ben now that the dark union of their spirits made only HIS prayers valid And as Eugene leaves Altamont for graduate school at Harvard knowing he will probably never return home He stood naked and alone in the darkness, far from the lost world of the streets and faces he stood upon the ramparts of his soul, before the lost land of himself heard inland murmurs of lost seas, the far interior music of the horns The last voyage, the longest, the best I look forward now to reading the second book, Of Time and the River A Legend of Man s Hunger in His Youth I ve heard it s very long but equally as good.
Every culture has its southerners people who work as little as they can, preferring to dance, drink, sing, brawl, kill their unfaithful spouses who have livelier gestures, lustrous eyes, colorful garments, fancifully decorated vehicles, a wonderful sense of rhythm, and charm, charm, charm unambitious, no, lazy, ignorant, superstitious, uninhibited people, never on time, conspicuously poorer how could it be otherwise, say the northerners who for all their poverty and squalor lead enviable lives envied, that is, by work driven, sensually inhibited, less corruptly governed northerners We are superior to them, say the northerners, clearly superior We do not shirk our duties or tell lies as a matter of course, we work hard, we are punctual, we keep reliable accounts They caution themselves as people do who know they are part of a superior culture we mustn t let ourselves go, mustn t descend to the level of the jungle, street, bush, bog, hills, outback take your pick For if you start dancing on tables, fanning yourself, feeling sleepy when you pick up a book, developing a sense of rhythm, making love whenever you feel like it then you know The south has got you Susan Sontag, The Volcano Lover A RomanceHe wanted opulent solitude His dark vision burned on kingdoms under the sea, on windy castle crags, and on the deep elf kingdoms at the earth s core He groped for the doorless land of faery, that illimitable haunted country that opened somewhere below a leaf or a stone And no birds sing Thomas Wolfe, Look Homeward, AngelWarning This is lush writing This is blown roses, crushed on the sidewalk, releasing their heady scent into the muggy August night It s unfaithful lovers swooning under the spell of a cheese yellow moon, as bats flicker overhead It s a sweaty, post coital sprawl on a messy bed, and it is deep Southern Gothic Do not read this book right now if you are really in the mood for Raymond Carver, because it will likely induce nausea and vomiting and the rending of garments or pages I can go both ways, austere and overblown, but happen to be in mood these past several months where I am enjoying fat, dense, too many words books with my big ol mugs of tea I m also preferring untidiness the sweet disorder in the dress the early, conspicuously imperfect works of writers who would later learn to polish away their rough, amateurish edges I can understand why this book has fallen out of favor these days As I mentioned in one of my status updates, it has something in it to offend just about everyone But, I think it s important to keep in mind that Wolfe was writing both a grand love song that is also a threnody to the South , and a satire, that at times reaches lyrical heights worthy of the poets he so admires, and at times plummets into the hilarity and bawdiness of a good limerick He is pointing a finger from the distance of the North and mocking what he was and, in part, still is at the time of writing He is cringing at the indecency and ignorance of his people and his home, too, whilst still loving them all passionately for being his And for being, let s face it, what the North can never be overblown, lush, lyrical, drunk with the smell of honeysuckle and jasmine on a hot summer night Faulknerian Deeply, unabashedly sensual Wolfe, in telling us indirectly through the voice of Eugene Gant about his home and his people, catches us at the core of our humanity for who doesn t love their drunken, monstrous, bombastic lout of a father grandfather uncle and their penny pinching, stubborn, bossy, and ignorant mother grandma aunt, despite their flaws, without which they would not be themselves but some impostor How many of us have felt the impassable chasm that opens between us and our loved ones when we seek and find something beyond the life they have offered us, which inevitably alienates us from a world and a family who were once our whole existence Another title of Wolfe s is You Can t Go Home Again, but in writing Look Homeward, Angel Wolfe has tried to do that, at least in memory He has reached back through time, raiding his sealed boxes from home, and produced a striking memoir ish novel of his past My impression is that Wolfe wrote Look Homeward, Angel as neither as an apology nor a defense of the South rather, he presents his messy young life to us whole, as gilded as any art but also vulnerable in its expression There is much in this book which is disgusting and shameful, and much that is tender and poignant He knew that when he wrote it He shows us the wild beauty and grandeur of his place and its people, whilst simultaneously exposing the tragedy and sorrow, the disease, decay, and corruption that exists beneath the surface of all life That is his gift to himself, for one feels that writing this book must have been a profoundly cathartic experience for him, and to his readers If you miss the integrity intrinsic to Look Homeward, Angel , you miss the whole point of the book, really Wolfe has paid homage to what he both loves and despises and, in doing so, he reveals the tragicomedy of human existence The love and hate exist side by side and cannot do without each other.
Having implied now that the book has a universality that throws a net across all human existence, I have to backtrack a bit I read and understood this book, as a Southerner I moved to Australia fifteen years ago, but my roots are the American South My people, for generations back, are made up of English, Irish, French, and Spanish immigrants who settled in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Texas, starting in the 17th century They fought in the Civil War, on the Confederate side I don t know how people who aren t marinated in those particular juices make sense of this book at all, and I would not blame them if they couldn t I ve often wondered that about Faulkner, too, though Clearly, people around the world read Faulkner, but I assume they are missing some of the deeper chords, just as I suspect I miss things when I read books from other countries, especially in translation Because the South is its own country, in the heart of its people born and bred there, and holds on to its own beliefs and customs, passing them down from generation to generation, even while all things change around it As a woman who grew up in Texas but has never voted for a Republican, I can tell you that it is perfectly possible to simultaneously love and loathe the land that nourished you I felt a deep simpatico with Wolfe s experience Look Homeward, Angel is lush and ascetic, harsh and generous, brimming with joy and screaming with rage and existential terror It s a great book I loved it And some of it, I hated, too I am perfectly comfortable with that and feel that it makes for an outstanding reading experience The writing is exceptional, and I was reminded not only of Faulkner, whom I ve mentioned, but also Milton and Shakespeare, and Spencer and Coleridge, all of whom are much admired by our narrator and Wolfe s alter ego, Eugene But the book reminded me, too, of Joyce s Ulysses If one could use Ulysses, as Joyce hoped, to recreate Dublin, then one could use Look Homeward, Angel to recreate a certain small city in North Carolina, at a certain point in time The lyrical flights, the soliloquies, and the rhapsodic pleasures and pains, as they are spilled across the page, also made me think of Ulysses repeatedly whilst reading I don t doubt that I have no hope of defending Wolfe against the stones thrown at his corpse by modern readers, for the anachronistic racism, sexism, and every other bad ism you can think of, in this book, but I will leave this quote from the book, that he may speak for himself The book must be read and understood as a whole, in the way that he intended it, or it ought not to be read at all Which I think would be a great shame because it s magnificent.
His feeling for the South was not so much historic as it was of the core and desire of dark romanticism that unlimited and inexplicable drunkenness, the magnetism of some men s blood that takes them into the heart of the heat, and beyond that, into the polar and emerald cold of the South as swiftly as it took the heart of that incomparable romanticist who wrote The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, beyond which there is nothing And this desire of his was unquestionably enhanced by all he had read and visioned, by the romantic halo that his school history cast over the section, by the whole fantastic distortion of that period where people were said to live in mansions, and slavery was a benevolent institution, conducted to a constant banjo strumming, the strewn largesses of the colonel and the shuffle dance of his happy dependents, where all women were pure, gentle, and beautiful, all men chivalrous and brave, and the Rebel horde a company of swagger, death mocking cavaliers Years later, when he could no longer think of the barren spiritual wilderness, the hostile and murderous entrenchment against all new life when their cheap mythology, their legend of the charm of their manner, the aristocratic culture of their lives, the quaint sweetness of their drawl, made him writhe when he could think of no return to their life and its swarming superstition without weariness and horror, so great was his fear of the legend, his fear of their antagonism, that he still pretended the most fanatic devotion to them, excusing his Northern residence on grounds of necessity rather than desire What is the American South It has come to my attention recently that there is some confusion about what states make up the South and the Deep South, or Dixie, terms which are culturally significant than mere geography would explain It s probably helpful to understand some of this before reading Look Homeward, Angel, because the book is so deeply Southern and reflects the codes and myths by which Southerners live.
The Confederate States of America CSA or C.
S , commonly referred to as the Confederacy and the South was an unrecognized country in North America that existed from 1861 to 1865 The Confederacy was originally formed by seven secessionist slave holding states South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas in the Lower South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African American slaves Each state declared its secession from the United States, which became known as the Union during the ensuing civil war, following the November 1860 election of Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln to the U.
S presidency on a platform which opposed the expansion of slavery into the western territories Before Lincoln took office in March, a new Confederate government was established in February 1861, which was considered illegal by the government of the United States States volunteered militia units and the new government hastened to form its own Confederate States Army from scratch practically overnight After the American Civil War began in April, four slave states of the Upper South Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina also declared their secession and joined the Confederacy The Confederacy later accepted Missouri and Kentucky as members, although neither officially declared secession nor were they ever largely controlled by Confederate forces Confederate shadow governments attempted to control the two states but were later exiled from them.
Though often used in history books to refer to the seven states that originally formed the Confederacy, the term Deep South did not come into general usage until long after the Civil War ended Up until that time, Lower South was the primary designation for those states When Deep South first began to gain mainstream currency in print in the middle of the 20th century, it applied to the states and areas of Georgia, southern Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, north Louisiana, and East Texas, all historic areas of cotton plantations and slavery This was the part of the South many considered the most Southern Later, the general definition expanded to include all of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and often taking in bordering areas of East Texas and North Florida In its broadest application today, the Deep South is considered to be an area roughly coextensive with the old cotton belt from eastern North Carolina through South Carolina west into East Texas, with extensions north and south along the Mississippi.